A bit on Anthologies

Euphoric winner winning at home

This year I have only two stories destined for anthologies. One is for a summer anthology, due out soon, another a children’s book scheduled for Christmas.

This is the lowest number of stories I have given for inclusion into collective tomes for several years.

I know some writers stay away from this form of publication. There are many reasons.

Some do not write short fiction, others focus on just one genre, some believe these books a waste of effort, while others only give licence if the book is a charitable or fundraising edition.

I appreciate everyone’s point of view on this matter.

To give a story away, even secured by a simple first serial rights licence, is a big thing. To take time out to write a specific tale for one is a commitment. Then, there is the fact of finding the extra time to write in the first instance.

If someone does not wish to commit to an anthology, so be it.

I, however, am a sucker for these books.

Partly, it is because I am a prolific writer of short stories and flash fiction. I always have some unpublished works on hand which need a good home. Another reason is, I enjoy writing from simple, given prompts. I belong to some writer’s groups, such as ‘500 – Iron writer’s spin-off‘ who regularly exercise their quills by doing just so.

I find scribbling a short tale a fantastic writing exercise, as I do with poetry and blog writing, even this post you are reading now is teaching me something about my trade as a wordsmith.

It is called, gaining experience.

I believe we can and should always strive to become better writers and, like modern athletes and sportsmen, we should ‘cross -train’. That may mean writing poetry and short stories, trying our hand with a genre we have never approached before, writing non-fiction too. Whatever it takes, we should often step outside of our comfort zone, we should do it to improve ourselves.

For me, committing to someone as a guest blogger, or agreeing to contribute a piece to an anthology, encompasses that training; it allows me to be creative, try something ‘new to me’, or come at a subject from an alternative perspective. It also allows me to get my work in front of readers who may not have found me otherwise.

It is not something I do for a direct reward. I have, where there have been shared royalties, had my allocation directed to charity.

Which brings me nicely to this point.

Many collections of short stories are put together as fundraisers, or for creating http://authl.it/6boawareness for worthwhile causes.Looking into the Abyss: Saving the Rhinoceros one story at a time’ an anthology designed to spread the word about the Rhino’s fight for survival, and ‘Sticks & Stones and Words that Hurt Me’ which supports anti-domestic violence, along with ‘Storybook, Individually together, Vo 1 (no longer available) are three charitable books I have close association with.

 

However, not all anthologies have to be for charitable causes.

awethologyLIGHTSMASHWORDSThe ‘Awethors’, a group of likeminded indie authors from across the globe, have created three anthologies crammed with a wealth of wonderful tales. These books, The Awethology Dark, The Awethology Light and the December Awethology Dark & December Awethology Light, were produced for several reasons.

These books are to show what an alliance of indie authors, living in various countries around the world, can achieve when working in unison.

The Awethors collective produced not one, but Four great works, proving such co-operative action can be repeated and maintained.

These anthologies also bring the contributing authors closer together, it strengthens the collective and in some cases, creates new, long lasting, genuine friendships.

If you have never contributed to an anthology before, I ask you to consider doing so. I am certain you will know at least one other writer who has a link with at least one. Do it for yourself, for a literary exercise, for learning, for betterment, but most of all do it for fun.

To finish, I quite fancy contributing to a Sci-Fi collection, (I don’t write Sci-Fi), or something from a female perspective perhaps?

Any offers, contact me.

 

Thank you once again for reading my Ramblings, Paul.


Looking for something different, a gift with thought? Take a look at the Pussers Cook Book.

 http://amzn.to/2usvZxQhttps://www.createspace.com/7008835

Say what you mean

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This blog, as its sub-title states, is where I write about writing for writers.

When I do so, I want to make it clear what each of my posts are about, so you can choose to indulge in my words, or skip on to something else which blows your frock up in the moment.

The point is ‘CLARITY’.


Allow me to explain where my thoughts are…

I read an awful lot of stuff about writing and being an indie author; articles, blogs, books, newspapers, social media posts, written by other writers, authors and publishers with the intent of giving advice or insight into the ‘black art‘ of a writer’s life.

Generally… and I know one should not generalise by right, but on this occasion, I shall… Generally, all these posts are written with a single perception in mind, that of fiction writer.

It is assumed, by most authors of these posts, articles and essays that ‘writing’ or being a ‘writer’ means you are working on a fictional novel.

Do not simply take my word, browse away all you like, look for yourself.

I can understand why.

Most of these articles are written, with good intent, by authors of fiction, reaching out to help others. Sharing knowledge and accumulated wisdom. Something which is rarely done in other areas where another person could be perceived as being and often is your competition.

This is one matter where the indie writer’s community excels. It is supportive and encouraging to all whom venture within the dark realms of the quill.

Yet the terms writer means so much more and covers a far wider sphere, than fiction alone.

I try to be as inclusive as possible in my own posts.

If I am not writing directly about a particular aspect of fiction, I try to make my posts content as equally applicable to those writing a blog, a historical article, poetry, or a non-fictional account, as I am to the writers of fiction alone.

A writer could be a reporting journalist, a diarist, a playwright, or engaged in composing a technical manuscript as well as engaging in stories of fantasy and fiction.

So, come on all you other bloggers who tap away on your keyboards. Make it clear from the outset of you post if it is about something which affects all forms of writing, such as grammar, or your view on the loneliness a writer may endure.

Please alert people if it is specific to a certain genre or area of writing, like romantic fiction, historical recording, technical manuscripts or horror. ZGPIAp

Why?

Well, I for one do not want to start reading your post, which I am sure you will have made as interesting and comprehensive as possible, to find, a few paragraphs in, it is covering a subject which I have no connection with and is therefore of absolutely no interest to me.

Being unnecessarily drawn into such, will only make me disregard any future article you post, even if it then covers a subject I am concerned about.

You can still have a ‘catchy’ headline or title if you don’t want a fully descriptive header. Just ensure, for those browsing a subject they want to read, that you clarify, in the first few lines, the subject matter of the post.

It will help the reader find what they want and it will help you gain followers who like your subject matter.

That’s all I have to say for now.

Enjoy the rest of your day, Paul.

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Oh…before you go, you might like to visit ‘Wild Geese’,my new blog for the independent traveler. https://wildgeesetravel.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bucking the trend (or one reason why you are not making money)

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Unlike many of my Ramblings, this post is written in a far more focused manner, giving a clue to the importance I place on this content.

I think, ALL indie authors NEED to read the following, in full.


 

Recently I have seen a large number of indie authors discounting their books, or giving them away freely, offering a plethora of ‘giveaways’, from the humble bookmark to expensive looking jewellery, even a combination of all the above.

Whilst this form of promotion is not unusual by itself, the number of offers has increased to such a degree, that it seems no one is selling a book at full value price.

In fact, a quick scan of the internet shows very few books, (in relative context), for sale above zero, naught, nil, zilch, nothing.

This is excellent if you are a reader. You have the largest and widest choice of reading material ever produced in the history of human life, being offer to you at no cost; even incentivised, bribed, to take up such offers, by the additional giving of gifts.

Life has never been so cosy.

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This recent explosion of free books has been boosted by the hundreds of book promotion sites, offering authors the service of marketing their works to millions of potential readers, for a small fee.

The sales gist of this is, should the author give away books, each person receiving a free book may like it so much, they will buy more of that authors works.

This seems a viable strategy… in principle.

BUT… there is always a but!

This form of book marketing was, for want of a better word, pioneered by Amazon when they were quite a young organisation selling only books.

At that time, the indie authors publishing phenomenon had not established, making it a very different market place; one where the novelty of being offered a free book was the exception not the rule.

Furthermore, add this marketing fee to the cost of production, editing, proofreading, formatting, cover designer, advertising, etc. Now, work out your royalties per-sale, because that is what must pay for your books production costs.

From this simple equation, you will see how many books you must sell to break even.

NOTE: This figure is cost based only. It does not include a budget for your time, your internet bill, your software licence fees, office space offsets (even if ‘the office’ is a table in your lounge) and other associated costs, which as a business person you need to consider. If you do not, whatever monies you think you have made form that book, will be demanded from you by those wonderful, friendly folks at the Inland Revenue.

So…how much do your royalties add up too…oh, nothing… because you gave it all away, with the bookmarks and coasters you paid for to boost your sales.

Not very business minded, are you?

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Let’s fast forward to today.

The indie publishing business is a global industry, with hundreds of thousands of books being self-published each month, in every country and every language on earth.

This is a world where an adage I loth, ‘A victim of our own success’, has the hollow ring of truth.

Because computer technology has allowed the growth of, what was once referred to as ‘desk top publishing’ to grow in such an unprecedented way, the competition in the indie publishing scene is immense.

However,… there is always a however, too!

While the market place for book sales has undergone change akin to continental drift, the methods used by indie authors is still as primitive as the those used in the embryonic days of Amazon’s birth.

You see, Amazon has outgrown the indie author world. It has outgrown many, if not all the established mainstream publishing companies and, by doing so, has irrevocably altered the landscape of publishing in general.

Neither is this giant called Amazon about to offer indie authors a helping hand.

It does not have to and does not want to. Not only has it outgrown the publishers, but it has established itself as the master of sales opportunities. Basically, as an independent writer, if you want to sell a lot of books you must factor Amazon into your marketing mix. What is more, Amazon will need to be your prime ingredient in the clear majority of cases.

Which brings us back to the reader, those illusive, almost mythical creatures who may, one day, if you are extremely lucky, buy one of your books.

BUT… yes another but!

BUT… it is getting less and less likely any reader will put their hand into their pocket and pull out some money, simply to get hold of a copy of your book.

You see, they don’t have too.

There are hundreds and thousands of books available for free. The reader can order any of these, or simply download an eBook version, which they can add to the hundred unread books waiting on their Kindles and E-readers, without ever spending a single penny.

Oh, that fleeting promise of maybe’s, the one the book marketing sites sold you, you know, the one that goes… “if they like your style they will buy the rest of your series/books….”

You didn’t fall for that old spangle, did you? 

Because they will not.

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Please do not dismiss the reader thus. Like all of us, our readers must be canny when it comes to spending, whether buying packet of sausages in a supermarket, or buying a good book to curl up with in front of the fire.

These folks will:

A, wait until another of your series is offered for free.

B, read another free book. (They may enjoy it better than yours.)

C, Both, of the above.

This is a reader’s market. It has got this way because of several factors, but (another but!), it is you, the indie author who has brought this situation upon yourself.

By publishing your book at a ridiculous low price, then lowering that price and eventually giving your book away, you are part of the overall problem affecting many, if not most indie authors.

You are simply adding to the situation you are moaning about. You know the one, about having too many free books on Amazon. That the competition is too great, because the market is flooded with cheap books, 99 cents and below.

This WILL NOT CHANGE until you…yes, YOU do something about it.

Ideally, for me. As of tomorrow morning, there would not be one book, not a single novelette being given away.

Novella’s and the such would be priced at around £2.00/$2.40 for the shortest book and escalating up from there.

Novels would kick in at a minimum of £10.00. Book prices would be back to a decent level, a level not too dissimilar to that before Amazon muscled in.

We all, from time to time, often with good reason, knock the major publishing houses who controlled publishing, much as DeBeers control the diamond market. Yet they ensured authors got a fair return for the time and effort involved in creating a book.

That cannot be said of Amazon, or any book promotion site encouraging free and 99c priced book sales.

I know there is a movement within the indie community, one which is trying to discourage the giving away of books.

I am part of that movement.

I believe, if ALL indie authors removed ALL free books, re-priced their books to reflect true value for authors, we would see a major shift change within the industry almost overnight.

Don’t worry.

People will not stop reading.

They never have and they never will. They shall simply be paying a fair price for the goods they receive.

Authors will start earning a fair return for their creativity, effort and investment. The quality of books will increase.

The world will be full, once again, of wild unicorns running free in green woodlands full of Tinkerbelle fairies… well, I may be pushing it a bit too far now; but the facts are, indie authors will be better served without cheap and free books…. FACT.

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Which brings me to the title of this post, ‘ Bucking the trend’

What give me the right to state such?

Firstly, this is not me simply making a vortex of hot air.

I stand by my convictions. I do not have any FREE books. I shall not be giving any books away. I do not have gifts of incentives. I have no bookmarks or jewellery.

In fact, I am deliberately ‘Bucking the trend‘.

Recently, I have increased the price of all my books, both Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.

One of which, is an Amazon No.1 bestseller.

The coveted No1 position, is something I doubt would have occurred, if the book was priced undervalue.

You see, perception plays a large part in decision making.

What value you initially consider an item, is easily disputed once furnished with a low price. Hence altering perception.

With that in mind, a low cost, or free book will hold little or no perceived value to the reader.

If the same book is viewed at a higher price, the value is assumed to be greater.

In association, the assumption of quality is also presumed higher or lower in direct proportion the estimated value implicit.

This is my view and the principles I adhere too.

I shall charge a fair price for my books. Not a penny less.

Readers can buy them, or not.

BUT…. (The last one I promise), consider this:

Should I just sell one copy of one of my books this year, I would have made more money than you, giving a thousand copies away.

I’ll leave you to muse over this.

Sleep tight, 

Paul

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Rabbits, Ducks and Rampant thoughts.

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Bentley hamlet. The duck pond is just visible, to the right of the last building, on the nearside of the road

This evening I took a stroll to an adjacent village to feed the ducks on the pond.

A pleasant, relaxing outing; one that allows my writers mind to relax, to take a break from its normal state, which is one of constant overdrive of complex inventiveness.

I walked to this small village which contains, seven houses, one which is a converted chapel and two farms. To be absolutely accurate, I should call it a hamlet rather than a village.

This hamlet is only one and a half miles from my own home and the walk is along a quite country road. I took with me a bag of half-stale bread and some old cake to treat the ducks that live on the hamlets pond.

Near the rear of the pond is a wooden bench of the type often found in public parks. It was donated by a group of women, I’m uncertain who, but their names are etched into a plaque on the rear of the seat. I thank them.

It is a tranquil spot, idyllic even.

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On my walk to the hamlet, I watched wild rabbits scurry into the dense undergrowth of bracken and bramble, dive headlong under hedgerows as my approach disturbed their grazing. Birds sung evensong, apart from the swifts and swallows which hunted on the wing, darting to and fro, seeking out their prey in a wondrous acrobatic aerial display.

I often walk, choosing various routes, partly as exercise, partly as relaxation and partly to wonder at the sheer variety of nature that is, so to speak, right on my doorstep. It is something I enjoy immensely.

This evening was no different until I saw a small rabbit, white tail bobbing as it ran down a steep bank, dodging the saplings, looking for somewhere to hide from my presence. Uncontrollably my mind took this as a prompt!

How would a body look rolling down that bank? “Imagine pushing it with your foot” it said, “watch it turn over and over as it falls”.

“Hey…what about this? running from zombies, or a mad axe murderer. Think about scrambling up the bank, slipping back into their gasp”.

I fought NOT to think of such things, pushed them to the back of my mind. Luckily, looking up, I caught sight of a Buzzard circling above the woodland. This stayed those musings…for a time.

2-ducks-on-a-pond-vaswaith-elengwinSoon, I was at the pond, sitting on the bench, watching a raft of ducks as they squabbled over the dried bread and old cake I casually tossed into the pond.

But my muse would not be quieted. “How deep is that water?” it asked. “Look, look a body is floating to the surface”. It was not; it is too heavily weighted to rise!

I shook my head to clear these notions. It worked, momentarily.

You see, the cottage opposite the pond has a small window, through which a pale yellow light was shining.

My mind spoke out again, “That is a lover’s hideaway. Two lost souls finding solace and love, a future together after all the turmoil and pain they have suffered”.

Sometimes I cannot control my own mind. It seeks inspiration and finds creative fertility of its own accord. Many times this is visual, like on this evenings stroll. Other times a voice, a sound, a few overheard words, sends it spiraling out of control.

I count this, most times, as a blessing and I am grateful to have this gift; but other times I regard it as a curse, as I did this night.

That’s all I have for you just now.

Goodnight, Paul.

 

© Paul White 2016

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Feel free to visit my website, take a look around, you may be surprised at what I get up to!

http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white

Yoghurt Tasting.

yoghurt

We often talk of how important punctuation and grammar are when writing. I think this is also true of the spoken word, oration and pronunciation should be a foremost concern.

NOT, I hasten to add, for everyday conversation where colloquialisms, dialects and vernaculars colour our conversations and lives, but when the spoken word is transmitted by mainstream media.

I believe, broadcasters have a duty to society to articulate, to use elocution and enunciation to the highest standard and, by doing so, enable our young to learn the wonders of well-versed dialogue, gain the ability for constructive discourse and communication.

How can we expect our young to learn to speak clearly and precisely, to acquire the ability to explain, to communicate effectively, if the denizens of our communications industry cannot do so themselves?

Personally, I do not think ‘dumbing down’ standards to ‘accommodate’ those considered, in correct ‘PC’ terms to be ‘less fortunate’ is the answer. This only has the effect of decreasing the overall standards by suggesting the lowering of general standards are acceptable. Which, of course, they are not.

I fear for the future.

Today I found myself disappointed by such a badly enunciated sentence.

“…blah, blah, blah…27-year-old Emma, a Yoghurt taster from Essex…. blah, blah, blah…”

Now…I have, as many of you do, a writers mind. This is a strange and oft uncontrollable beast. One which will pick-up on tid-bits and oddities which would, for the greater part, pass most people by without causing a ripple in their lives.

But for those of us who are cursed, or blessed, with such minds will know once this beast has focused on its intended target, once it has its victim firmly caught, there is little we can do until it has satisfied its hunger, or passions, or whatever desires need stating.

This was my situation earlier today. As soon as that sentence had been spoken my muse went into overdrive.

A quick and personal excuse (Disclaimer!): I was not watching or listening to the programme being broadcast, it was just ‘on’. My wife had switched the TV on earlier and it was playing away in the background.

So, where was I? Oh, yes my muse awakening, giving me a jolt.

Questions started to flood my head, ‘Yoghurt taster’ what kind of a job was that? Was it a flavour tasting position or simply to ensure the product was of a certain quality? Maybe this was a taste panel for R&D, for new products, new lines?

How did one get a job like that? Could I get a job like that? What qualifications, besides liking yoghurt, did one need?

My muse was excited; could this be part of a plot? A Poisoning?  Mass poisoning…holding corporations to ransom? Maybe the start of strange happenings in a small town… Zombie like conditions…Mmmm? My mind continued to race.

However, I love that word so I’ll say it again!

However, somewhere beside my overly stimulated muse, I had a nagging doubt such a position, a job as a yoghurt taster, actually existed. Food taster, yes. But I could not believe anyone could be employed solely as a Yoghurt taster.

No, I convinced myself, something was wrong. (Much to the annoyance of my muse!).

Thanks to modern technology, satellite, cable, Digi-boxes etc. we are able to do so many things with ‘live’ and ‘on-air’ television which have previously been impossible. One of these is instant ‘re-wind’.

This is what I used to take the programme back to the point where the ‘voice-over’ presenter stated that Emma was a ‘Yogurt taster’ from Essex.

This time I would actually be watching and listening to the broadcast, rather than having it grumbling away in the background, where only my subconscious was taking note.

Sitting too close and staring at the screen, like a six-year-old child, I pressed ‘play’. The images began to move and the narrator started to speak.

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“…blah, blah, blah…27-year-old Emma, a Yoga teacher from Essex…. blah, blah, blah…”

I played this over and again, four times in total, until I was absolutely certain this version was the correct one.

Emma was a yoga teacher and not a yoghurt taster, as I had first thought.

This was not me miss-hearing, it was clearly a case of shameful presentation.

I must say, I was more than a little disappointed.

I am sure, in the world of yoghurt, tasters are required? although I am uncertain of what the progression of seniority may be in such a profession. Perhaps one starts with the ‘own label’ products, progressing to ‘natural’ before moving to thick ‘Greek-style’ yoghurts. Maybe, an alternative route would be to delve into the technical realm of flavours, or the scientific corridor of ‘low-fat’ and ‘healthy’ options.

I guess I shall never know.

A divergent track that leads me, by some circuitous route, back to where I began this post; which is where I stated my belief that major broadcasters and, in many respects, our respective Governments, should take responsibility for the clarity and precision of language when transmitting programmes.

The above is a prime example of bad annunciation and elocution, the equivalent in my book, (note the pun!), of bad grammar and punctuation in writing.

Besides, my restless muse was unnecessarily disturbed.

Now I have to find an excuse NOT to write a novel about a wicked dairy farmer, who decides to get his revenge on the local townsfolk by plying them with infected yoghurt, thus turning them into pliable and malleable zombie-like humanoids who forever more will do the farmers bidding. Of course, as with all good pulp-fiction, there is always one young girl who hates all milk type products, regardless of flavour. Perhaps it is she who can fight back against the forces of evil and bovine product manipulation to save the earth…or at least the local town?

That is all I am going to say on the matter!

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So, until next time, enjoy your writing, even if your inspiration has been stimulated by a miss-print or badly spoken presenter. But please, please take care with your grammar. You never know when someone may read your work live on air, they may even be an ex yoghurt taster venturing into a new career!

 

Thank you for reading, Paul.

You may like to visit my website and see what else I am writing? http://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white

© Paul White 2016    RTWM310716/975

A question from a faded memory.

My posts are usually based on an idea or theme I have been mulling over for some time. Yet, when I write, I like to let my words ‘Ramble‘ onto the page.

Hence the title of this blog.

Today’s post is one which stems from contemplations which were running amok inside my head at bedtime last night… (read, ‘the early hours of this morning!‘)

It is not the first time I have considered the subject and one, I am sure, you have paid heed to in the past.

It is one of life, or rather death. But not in the regular way we may think on such a topic.

I shall start by sharing a faded memory.

Some time ago a read an article; by whom or in what magazine or book I forget. You see, it was not where the article was, or who the author might be that was important, it was the content.

It gave me food for thought. Thoughts I am writing about here, years later.

The article suggested we can conceive life, human life, without our own being part of it. Such as historical events or even the future.

We all know that in fifty, seventy, a hundred years from now we, as individuals will not be here. In short, we will have died.

Our own mortality is something we learn to accept. We live with the fact that at any moment, any one of us could expire. Such is life.

It is also not so hard to understand life without entire groups of people. We have read in a newspaper, or seen on the television, reports of families and even whole communities being killed by accidents; motorway pile-ups, air crashes, ships sinking, or natural disasters like tsunami, earthquakes, and forest fires.

We have come to accept these events as part of our life on Earth.

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So, to think of life, to think of the world carrying on without those, or without us, should we ever be unfortunate enough to be caught in such a situation, is not beyond most people’s grasp.

This is where the article asked the reader, me in this instance, to take some time to contemplate and consider the next question.

I shall now ask the same of you. Whatever your initial response or thoughts may be, spend some more time, a day, a week, several years, returning and re-evaluating your answer.

… Ponder life on earth without humanity, without a single human being.

Not the past, not before our race evolved, because that gives a false perspective. We know Homo-Sapiens came into being.

But think of a future world without our presence. How would the world look, how would the future be?

Now think of yourself as the final living human. Would you write a diary, an account of your life on earth?

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Why? Who would read it…not another human. No living entity that could understand those little black marks scribbled across sheets of paper. Nothing which could make head-nor-tail of the strange sounds you utter.

Pictures, paintings, art, recordings… all pathetically useless and irrelevant. They would never mean anything…ever…at all…to anything.

Then the Sun explodes and annihilates the earth, the entire solar system.

That is shortly before Andromeda collides with the Milky-Way. The two galaxies’…the immovable object and the irresistible force.

Take time to consider the universe then…without a single trace of our solar system, of Earth, that human life, or any life, ever existed.

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Would you, as the last human want to leave a trace of our passing, however pitifully futile you knew that to be… Why?

Now, as a writer I find myself retuning to wonder what our world would genuinely be like without ‘us’. Let alone thinking about the aftermath of the destruction of two entire solar systems.

The philosophers among you may adhere to certain schools of thought… or not.

I for one have many ideas, none of which I can truly convince myself is correct.

Now, I don’t expect you to answer this question too quickly. Take your time as I have.

Which has been about twenty years, so far!

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Enjoy your day, Paul.

Did you know I also have a blog where I post the occasional short story? You are welcome to read them all, they are right here at… https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com

One reason why I don’t give my books away.

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Because I have worked hard, very hard in making the book a reality.

The uninitiated may feel that is a glib remark, but it is not, if you consider….

I first had to come up with the idea, a notion of a story and ensure it had a start point, a good tale to tell, one which draws to a satisfactory conclusion.

That is, it has a beginning, a middle and an end.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Then try it now, in the next few seconds. Say these words aloud….ready….go…”My story begins when……

Well, come on. You said it was easy, so what’s keeping you?…… OK. Times up.

Let’s move on.

I shall say ‘we writers’ from now on, have an outline of a story in our head. We know where we want it to start. We may even have a few words which may become the opening lines, when we start writing.

Each writer has their own way of plotting and constructing a novel. So, for generalist purpose I am adopting the supposition this is a writer who plots onto a story line…to a degree.

For the next few days we shall be breaking down the sequence of the story in our mind, transcribing it onto a plot graph, a timeline of planned stages. This is something we shall change numerous times over the next few days. We shall have the characters, particularly the protagonist, face challenges they must overcome. We will build his/her character as realistically and as humanly flawed as suits the plot, and will have our readers empathise, at some stage, with the antagonist. Possibly disbelieving in the actions of the hero….who may yet actually be the real baddy!

This is the type of conflict associated with plotting the story. Already at this stage the story wants to take charge of the author, as later, during the writing of the first draft, so shall the characters. They WILL take on a life of their own. They WILL wake the writer in the early hours of the morning, banging on the door of new concept. The same characters WILL, on another night, keep the writer awake until the sun rises just so they can move forward, continue their journey within the unfolding pages of new manuscript.

Most authors become almost, if not entirely obsessed with writing the tale. Some seem, even become unsociable, withdrawn. Because the story must be told, it must be typewritten onto paper or into computer memory. If the writer stops, or is distracted for too long, the thread begins to fade, the momentum halted, the spirit lost. The new lives, those characters created start to wither, even die.

Writers are, in the worlds they create, Gods among characters, guiders of destiny and givers of fulfilment, destroyers of life, of societies, of cities and planets. The author is omnipotent. It is a role, a responsibility we take seriously. It is a heavy burden we bear.

Come the end of the first draft and an entire year’s supply of coffee beans. I/we, the authors, sit back in our chairs and breathe a sigh of relief.

It is short respite.

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Soon our noses are back at the grind stone. We now need to read, edit and re-write the entire work. A first draft, no matter how carefully crafted, is just that. A first draft.

Now we really start work. No longer are we flying in full creativity mode, now we are in a roll-your-sleeves-up and get stuck in approach to the task.

Generally, this stage takes twice as long as the first. Deleting words, sentences and replacing them…or not. Moving paragraphs or rephrasing entire sections of the manuscript. Rearranging the position and order of entire chapters, even deleting them…or writing new ones. There is no limit to the fettling undertaken at this stage.

Once we are (reasonably) happy with draft number six/seven/ eleven? We congratulate ourselves and add a tot or two of whisky into the large mug of rich black coffee, our drug of choice.

Happily, we tell our copy editor we are ready for them to scan our documents. Oh, she says. (Not a sexist remark, simply the fact I have found most of the best editors are women), you need a line editor before you run it past me!

So, weeks later, with some alterations to plot and structure you eventually pass the manuscript over to your copy editor…..and wait…and wait, which is a good thing. Annoying, frustrating, but good.

You see your editor should be busy…if she is not that could indicate no one wants her services? The second reason you should be happy to wait is you want a thoroughly good job done, don’t you? Therefore proper, good, concise editing with a comprehensive feedback means taking all the time required to do the job right. Right?

Everything is not lost during this time, because you have to have a cover. If you have not yet made any advance towards having one designed, now is a great opportunity, it will take your mind off waiting for your editor.

Unless you are a graphic designer of illustrator I would leave the cover to an expert. Even if you are an artist I would, at the very least, consult with one. You see a book cover is NOT what most people (readers/ writers/authors) think it is.

Comes the day when your book cover, both paperback and kindle versions are ready. You are excited because your manuscript has just arrived back from your editor….the pages listed with notes, amendments and suggestions.

Now, instead of moving forward, instead of getting a step closer to publication you must revisit you story. Once more you sit and work through the entire manuscript, making alterations, altering tense, reading those suggestions and editorial input regarding clarity, flow and all that other stuff.

Three days later, in a foul mood and with a raging headache you stab the send button returning, the now amended manuscript, to your editor.

This is when you wonder where the last year of your life has gone. This is when you look out of the window and wonder why it is snowing…in June…only June has long passed. You missed it.

You were living in your own Neverland, guiding your characters away from disaster and death. Now, all of a sudden life seems so much more….empty.

The story is with your editor. The cover made. Time seems to hang about endlessly, waiting…tick-tock, tick-tock.

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After a day or two of doing virtually nothing it all gets too much. You plan a launch date, but not too soon. Then you organise a thunderclap, a blogging chain, advertising, a cover reveal and whatever blows your frock up.

Hay, guess what, your manuscript is back, this time there are only a few notes, easy stuff to sort out. So, you do. It only takes the best part of a day this time.

Now you can busy yourself again. This time you need to format your manuscript into book form. One for each type of book, i.e. paperback and eBook, but also for the platforms you may be using, Createspace, Lulu, Smashwords and so forth. Of course, you can have a professional do this, or you can seek the help of a fellow author…all work well if organised properly.

The next stage is proofreading. Each format needs to be proofread. You can do a first run yourself, pick up on any errors made during formatting, check the margins, headers, page numbering, kern and such. But, I bet you will miss a shed load. So have other eyes, preferably an experienced proof-reader, one with a good track record, even someone recommended.

So, you press the send on your keypad again and hey-ho the formatted manuscript(s) is/are off to your proof-reader, who will pick up on any punctuation, capitalisation, space and…other issues you WILL have missed.

ONLY after you have fixed all those errors will your story, which up to now has just been a manuscript with a working title, become a book.

Upload to print…. congratulations. It has taken you around eighteen months of blood, sweat, tears and toil. Of mood swings and social deprivation, headaches, doubts, pain, fear and uncertainty to turn your dream into your baby.

Well done you.

NOW YOU WANT TO GIVE IT AWAY?

That is (one reason) I don’t give my books away.

Paul White.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mixed Media Inspiration: Lack of Inspiration — writings by Ender

It is not often I repost blogs/links here.

I do have invited guest bloggers, but rarely do this. The reason I have is it is an honest, origanal post which I think is worth sharing…it is that simple

I’ve found I’ve been lacking inspiration the last few days. It’s common writing practice to linger around until inspiration hits you, but that’s not what I do. It’s not what working writers do; we don’t have the time. In times of an inspiration deficiency I seek three simple pleasures: reading, music, and social interaction. Reading […]

via Mixed Media Inspiration: Lack of Inspiration — Writings By Ender

The existential existence of SpongeBob SquarePants.

Once again it has been too long since I wrote a meaningful post for these Ramblings; but life has that way of knocking you off course when you least expect it.

Although we should really anticipate that to happen, because that is what life is; a series of random, arbitrary events one after another.

Some of those events affect us instantaneously, shock us into immediate reaction. Others slowly reveal themselves through a string of smaller incidents which accumulate, gradually pushing us to a point where we are forced to take notice, to take action.

Yet the most disturbing are those which only reveal themselves after the event. The sly, stealthy spone2little beggars that inexorable invade our lives, like fine plant roots microscopically threading their way through solid concrete, destabilising and destroying it progressively yet unnoticed, until it shatters or crumbles.

This is where many of my thoughts have been over the past few weeks.

You see, even though I have been busy publishing, designing, writing and doing all sorts of whatnots, my mind, or some sections of it, have been chewing over and considering the world, life, the universe and the deeper meaning of SpongeBob SquarePants existential existence.

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All of which brings me to this:

So, there I was one morning, standing in the bathroom and looking into the mirror. This was not a vanity thing; (I was considering if I could get away another day without shaving!) when I looked at myself directly.

Now, let me explain what I mean about the term ‘directly’.

spone4Generally, when we look in the mirror we are not looking at ourselves, we are looking at and for parts of ourselves. We are looking for stray hairs, grey hairs, wrinkles, blemishes, spots, pimples, dark patches and crow’s feet and so on. It is not often that we take that step back, at least in the mental perspective, to look at ourselves as a whole.

 

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Once more, we are too distracted by our ever expanding waistline, or drooping…(jowls?), the slight hunching of our shoulders or offset bend of our neck. Our eyes are taken from our whole. We fail to see ourselves in our entirety.

But that is what I did that morning. For the first time in an absolute age I saw myself. I knew the reflection was me, I accepted that.

Yet I had difficulty in recognising the fact.

You see life’s events have caught up with me. Those sly, stealthy little beggars, the ones that inexorable invade our lives, like fine plant roots microscopically threading their way through solid concrete, had worked their threadlike tendrils into every conceivable part of my body, with perhaps, the exclusion of my eyes.

Yes, it is natural. It is what life does. It is called aging and it will/is happening to us all.

But that is NOT where I am going with this Rambling.

I am going here…

Looking in that mirror was a point of reference for my personal diary. A mark placed upon my life’s calendar. It was a recognition point.

My life, and I suspect yours, are full of these reference points; the moments when you realise that one stage, one phase of your life is over and another begun.

I can think back and recall many such stages. Most like this one, unrealised until after the change has occurred.

I can do much the same with my writing. In fact, they have often gone hand in hand with a weird synchronicity. But then again that is, on consideration, not so strange.

You see, I am not the type of writer who focuses solely on one genre; I write more from the foundation of heart, of feeling, of whatever may be blowing my frock up just now. Which is probably why I have so many works in progress at any given time.

DovesHard3tttAs an example I have published works ranging from a fictional novel about C&Vfront1abduction and love, to books of emotive and disturbing poetry, through to short stories of crime and non-fictional historic chronicles.

I love writing fiction as much as I do non-fiction, such as this Rambling. But I can still trace the changes in tempo, in cadence and style of each period of time, each phase of my life in which they were written.

My writings and words reflect the beat of my heart, the pulse of my soul and my temperament. They have changed and aged over time as has my body.

Which brings me to a question.

How is my mind?

Is that as clear and agile as it once was, or are the threads of invasive destruction even now winding their unseen fibres within?

I wonder.

I know that, at least until the next time I look at myself in the mirror, I shall continue to write, to leave a trail of my existence behind, a legacy of my being.

I am, for now, ready for any event life may wish to throw my way, just as I am in my continued ponderance behind the theory of SpongeBob’s existence.

Feel free to check out my website 

F**k your writing. Or…(an essay regarding the use of expletives and profane language in fictional writings)

 

In polite, or politically correct circles one may refer to it as the ‘F word’.

This word first became a public literary issue after it was use in a major novel, Norma Mailer’s ‘The Naked and the Dead’, published in 1948.

Only, it was NOT.

Mailer’s publisher prevailed upon him to change this expletive; this four-lettered, description of sex, to ‘Fug’, so that it did not offend readers.

Given the fact that the book is about men during a war, ‘Fug’ occurred an awful lot of times!

The result was a backlash, a cluster of criticism and discussion in literary circles. This gave rise to the anecdote about Tallulah Bancroft saying to Mailer, “Oh, you’re the man who can’t spell that word”.

 

However, times change.

Nowadays the F-word has lost much of its ability to shock. Far fewer people are now offended by its inclusion in a book or, for that matter, in conversation. Still, authors often debate the role of ‘racy-talk’ in literature.

How much is too much? When have you gone too far, or not far enough?

Okay, before we get stuck with just this one word, let us consider the vast and rich palette of risqué words available and to clarify their ‘technical’ differences. Once we can differentiate between profanities, obscenities, curses and the like, it should be easier to determine how, why and if we should use them.

 

PROFANITY

Is often used to denote an objectionable word. ‘Profanity’ literally means words that are proscribed profane – that is words described by religious doctrine. ‘Proscribed’, in this context means ‘forbidden by written order’, such as, in Judeo-Christian tradition, taking the Lords name in vain (that is, not in Prayer).

“For the love of God, stop complaining” or “Jesus Christ, look at the size of that thing”.

 

CURSES

These call upon a deity, or fate, to cause harm in a visitation.

(Mild) “Damn this zipper”.

(Strong) “God Damn her”.

‘Damned’ is to be condemned to Hell.

‘Hell’ can also be a curse, “Go to Hell”, or a mild profanity, as in “Oh, Hell, the rivers polluted again!”

 

SWEAR WORDS

To swear literally means to take an oath, or to proclaim an oath.

Now, for anyone uncertain about oaths, (married folk take note!) An oath is a resolution or promise which calls upon a deity’s assistance in carrying it out. (Think about how many are in your marriage now!).

Examples: “God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again” or simpler, “By God I’ll show you”

You can swear to bear witness, as in “I swear, you are the best cook in this town”

 

OBSCENITIES

These are words that denote something disgusting or morally abhorrent. (Often connoting sex). The F-word is considered to be one of the most objectionable, along with the C-word.

The relatively modern inclusion of adding the prefix ‘Mother’ often ups-the-ante!

Non, or less objectionable variants of the present participle form of the F-word, beside ‘Fugging!’ include, Fecking, Freaking, flipping and fricking.

To be totally honest, I have no idea why the letter ‘U’ seems to be so ‘flaming’ important!

‘Screw’ is accepted as of the milder and therefore more acceptable terms. Please note, both the F-word and ‘screw’ are used not just used to literally describe intercourse, but to connote ‘Taking advantage of’.

“That Garage screwed me out of £300 for unnecessary repairs”

Generally, words referring to both male and female pelvic areas are considered obscenities.

 

VULGERISMS

I Like this one because this word, this term, covers a lot of bases. If it is crude, objectionable and falls outside the aforementioned categories, you have a vulgarism!

‘Bitch’, ‘Son of a Bitch’, ‘Bastard’, ‘Jackass/Ass, Asshole’ and even ‘Crap’ fall under this heading.

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Now…whether use should use, or not use, any (or all) of the above?

The literary world is somewhat divided around the use of spicy talk, which should not be surprising as our readers are as equally split.

Take two ‘Tough-Guy’ authors, Lee Child and Tom Clancy. Lee does not use any profanities in his writing. Most readers do not notice this. Whereas Tom’s books are littered with profanities…and he certainly sells a lot of copies!

Some readers may be turned off by even one, single, solitary curse word…possible? Maybe. But what is certain is that no-one will buy your books purely because you use raw language. (Although at one time, years ago, they may have well done so).

Does all this mean your safest path is to use no raw language at all?

Writing is a journey and all journeys involve some form of risk. History proves that some writers achieved success, or at least notoriety, because they shunned propriety. Harry Caulfield’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ was shocking in its era and may still be so to young teenagers today.

As you write, look for a balance with what you feel comfortable writing, what you, as the narrator feels is right within your style for this book and what suits the characters and the story you are creating.

What may be right for one piece of work maybe wrong for another.

 

Okay…Why ‘TO USE’

We humans get angry. We crave precise expression and there is something about cursing and using vulgar language that works for us as a release valve for our emotions.

Who has not, at some time, experienced a moment when a string of expletives has not felt exquisitely sublime rolling off your tongue?

The same is so for your fictional characters. Be true, be honest to them. Let them have their voice.

Moreover, if you want your stories to be realistic about the settings, battlefields, bars and domestic disharmony, well-written raw language will bring your characters to life, give them a heartbeat and authenticity.

 

HOW TO USE

Spicy language generally works best when it’s used sparingly, or at least in moderation. That way, you preserve the element of the unexpected, which can be a pressure-reliever for both character and reader. Aside from conveying anger or frustration, raw talk can also be humorous, in that it reveals how a character truly feels about something.

Take this line for an instance: “I ate another doughnut”.

Compare it with: “I ate another goddamned doughnut”.

You instantly get a clue about this character and her relationship with doughnuts.

You may have one character who habitually uses profanity, in contrast to others who don’t. That, in itself, is a good individualiser.

If you, yourself, are not too familiar with foul language a problem can occur when used wrongly, or as often happens with inexperienced writers, it is thrown in will-nilly. If it is used it MUST sound real. If you are uncertain try visiting areas where this language is commonly used, construction sites, wharves, military establishments and prisons for example. Grab a coffee in a nearby café at lunchtime and eavesdrop on the clientele’s conversations!

However, a word of warning. Even if, say a group of Miners, use an expletive every other word, it is unnecessary for you to make your own characters speak exactly that way. Just as when using dialects and accents, you have to use raw-talk wisely. This helps keep the reader grounded in your imaginary world and avoids the pitfalls of over-use/over doing it.

Consider your characters, employ common sense.

A hospital Matron, wearing a starched linin apron, may not utter a single un-PC word in public, but she may let loose a barrage in the principal’s office over a dispute, or howl out a string of profanities during sexual fulfilment.

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How NOT to USE

I mentioned some writers, Norman Mailer and Tom Clancy who chose to include bad-language into their works, but they pale into insignificance, almost, when it comes to literary genius. The bard himself, William Shakespeare, knew how to spice-up his writings and attract an audience in doing so.

He wrote the mother of all literary cuss-outs. (Cuss is simply a variant of Curse), in King Lear; but interestingly there is no profanity or obscenity as we know it, merely terrifically imaginative vulgarisms, delivered with passion. Here it is, the Earl of Kent preparing to thrash the crap out of Goneril’s loathsome lackey, Oswald:

KENT (TO OSWALD): “A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-liver’d, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, super serviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pander, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch, one whom I will beat into clamorous whining if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition”.

Knowing the historical references helps; for example, “broken meats” means leftover table scraps. But even without that, we can luxuriate in the rant. This is a beautiful speech for many reasons: It’s forceful, it’s unique, it covers many aspects of insult, it clearly communicates one character’s contempt of another, and—important for many in Shakespeare’s audience—it avoids serious curses and obscenities.

It’s a shining example of how a writer can invent insults way more entertaining than those found in the standard lexicon.

You can do it by brainstorming aspects of your characters and their circumstances:

“He was as appealing as a baboon’s butt”.

“You are the worst thing to happen to the world since call waiting”.

“May you be condemned to an eternity of weak coffee, warm gin and a driveway paved with roofing nails”.

By now, I think you will agree that it’s useful to explore—and perhaps even challenge—your own comfort zone.

Certainly if it is not you, it won’t ring true. But whether you decide to write common curses and vulgarisms into your work or not, your characters do need a verbal pressure valve. Do not use tacky asterisks to replace vowels. Just have fun with the process and remember that a ‘fug’ by any other name might sound remarkably original.

 

NOTE.

If your novel purports to reflect real life, then they must include profanity, if the life they reflect includes the use of profanities.

Let’s get real folks, you may have grown up in an era when books and movies were censored, but do you really think that in the Old West, cowboy’s actually said “You no-good-so-and-so” before drawing their six-shooters and blowing holes in one another?

Did the troops, dug into their fox-holes during WWII always speak in to each other in such a decorous manner?

I think not!

Some popular entertainment admittedly goes OTT in drenching dialogue in profanity, Such as in the opening sequences of ‘Born on the 4th of July’, but that is an exaggeration, not a fabrication, of reality.

 

So, why do people swear?

This will not cover any new territory. I expect that every angle regarding this has been covered in about every bar in every corner of the world!

People swear because the majority of profanity is emotionally charged. It can express anger, fear, sadness, joy, despair, frustration, ignorance, racism, homophobia, ageism, violence, sexism and all the other ‘isms’ and ‘tions’ you can name.

Occasionally a swear word can encompass all the above in a single word. That one word can grab people’s attention like no other when timed appropriately and, let us face it, very few things are quite as entertaining as listening to a person who has raised profanity to an art form.

You may disagree with those statements. I do not give a flying F**k…see what I mean!

When read that you do so as if I had written the word in full. Even though I ‘bleeped’ it out your mind supplied the details. Now your reaction was either positive or negative, depending on your personal personality. But you reacted.

Like I mentioned above, nothing ground breaking. Just a prelude to the answer you are seeking.

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‘Should YOU use profanity in YOUR writing?’

Writing is a process which takes pieces of ourselves and puts it ‘out-there’ for the world to see. It does not matter if you are writing literary fiction or genre fiction. Every character, setting, plot and sub-plot reveals a little about who we, as writers, are.

I doubt, very much, if a single day passes without you worrying about what you are writing.

(read that again if you wish, I’ll wait).

You see, every word we scribe invites judgment, criticism, commentary and, perhaps introspection. When we write something which surprises us, we often, most times, question where it came from.

That is because that we writers are a real self-conscious group. We are half scared to death of rejection! But if we filtered every word, considered the perception of each sentence through, say our Mothers, or Fathers, minds we would write nothing. Nothing at all.

What we have, what is so special, so personal is that little bit of ourselves that we add to the mix. Some reveals itself in plot, some in character, but most in the voice, in the narration, in our storytelling. That is where much of our fears lie, in revealing too much of ourselves, exposing our innermost to that ridicule and rejection.

BUT…if you do not add that to the mix the reader will smell you coming from a mile away. You will small like a fake, read like a fake and be discarded as a fake.

So, how does that answer the question about using profanities in your writing?

CONSIDERATIONS

As a writer you need to be true to yourself. You need to be true to your characters and voice. But don’t forget the other people you need to be true to:

Your Audience/Genre – If you forget who your audience is, for a single sentence or word, you will have lost them. If your audience demands a lack of profanity, then you had better not allow profanity to slip into your work. Not unless you are OK with alienating the very people you are trying to reach.

Your Editor – Your editor wants you to succeed. Your editor wants you…needs you…to sell books. You ignore your editor’s advice at your own peril.

Yourself – I know I have said this before, but I repeat it here for a different reason. If profanity is something that you are personally uncomfortable with then you will sound fake if you try to use it, regardless of the character in question. In fact, if a lack of profanity is one of your defining personal characteristics, then your characters will sound fake if you use it. Because, after all, your characters are nothing more than an extension of yourself. An audience can smell a fake a mile away. Be true to yourself, whether that means using profanity or avoiding it.

I am not going to tell you the world is going to smell like roses after you write something that raises people’s eyebrows. Especially if those eyebrows belong to people who are closely related to you, or who travel in social groups that are important to you. But you did not become a writer to fit in, did you?

I hope not.

Your writing has a chance to entertain, move, and bring people together.

It has a chance to shine a light on topics you care about in ways other writers have not.

It also has a chance to alienate you.

There is a chance your writing will be considered so offensive that society wants nothing to do with you. It is doubtful it will ever get that bad! but writing is taking a risk. Every time you put pen to paper you are stripping down and getting naked in front of the world.

There is never going to be a time where you do not question, at least once, “should I have written that?”

Recently I have read plentiful cursing in Stephen King novels, Nora Roberts books, and even (very sparingly) in John Grisham stories.

I have seen the use of cursing in both genre fiction and literary fiction. In some books just a little and in some a fair amount.

So, in full and final answer to the question… You are a writer. Welcome aboard the crazy train!

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© Paul White 2016


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